Prepare your horses for some fun in the sun, the winter season is almost underway
The leaves are changing, the temperatures are dipping, and riders across the country are beginning to dream of the sunny, warm days of Florida’s winter season. Each year, the Florida winter season in Ocala and Wellington attracts top riders, trainers, and amateur enthusiasts to the temperate climate and the hustle and bustle of shows, clinics, and conferences.
Eventers and jumpers across the nation are preparing to compete at the newly built World Equestrian Center and area farms in Ocala. Polo players are legging up their horses for a full season of tournaments at the International Polo Club Palm Beach and Port Mayaca Polo Club in the Wellington area. Dressage riders, hunters, and jumpers are all training for the busy 12 weeks of the World Equestrian Festival. Florida is the winter hub for equestrian sports, and now is the time to plan travel.
If you are preparing to bring your horses down south for the winter, make sure they are ready for the strain of travel and competition. Below are some tips to help prepare your horses for a winter in the Sunshine State:
Supplement with rosehips to give your horse the immune boost needed for travel
The stress of a changing environment, increased workload, and trailering can all have a damaging effect on the immune system. Before leaving your home base, consider supplementing with rosehips. High in vitamin C and chock-full of antioxidants, rosehips are an all-natural immune booster to help with periods of stress that take a toll on the immune system or heavy workloads and trailering that can cause inflammation in joints and ligaments. Rosehips do not interact negatively with other supplements and are permitted for competition use. The change in climate and sandy soil in Florida often leads to cracked hooves and slow hoof growth. Packed with biotin, omega fatty acids, and essential minerals, rosehips will help strengthen hooves and promote growth. These nutrients don’t only help the hoof, but also the coat. If you are planning on body clipping and want to see a little extra coat shine, rosehips offer the added boost to keep your horse looking its best.
Be consistent with feed and hay
Since transport is often hard on horses, it is vital to keep elements in their routine consistent before and during travel. If dietary changes are needed, make sure to incorporate them slowly to reduce the risk of gastric ulcers or colic. Horses taking multi-day trips or flying to their new locations may benefit from a temporary decrease in high-energy or carbohydrate-heavy feeds, as they can affect gastrointestinal and muscular health. Offering plenty of hay in slow-release hay nets will keep horses busy and relaxed and provide support for any stomach acid buildup.
Hydration is crucial
Hydration is critical to a horse arriving in Florida healthy and in competition-ready shape. Adding electrolytes to feed or drinking water a week before arrival and continuing a week after arrival will increase thirst and help ensure your horse keeps drinking, even when stressed or changes in their regular drinking water taste occur. The heat in Florida may come as a bit of a shock to northern horses, and dehydration can lead to colic, so be sure to monitor how much water your horse is consuming during their first couple of weeks in their new winter home.
Regular rest and relaxation will keep your horse mentally and physically sound
Transporting concerns often depends on the individual horse. Some horses are super well-behaved and are happy to hop on a trailer and take a ride. Others may get anxious, sweat, and experience distress when trailering. Whether or not your horse is displaying stressed-out behavior, keep in mind travel is always somewhat difficult for horses. Knowing your horse’s individual needs is key to easy travel. Horses should have the ability to stop and rest, get a drink, and move around for at least 30 minutes for every six hours of travel time. During this rest period, make sure to check for signs of discomfort such as sweating and anxiousness.
It is not always easy to ship in advance of your first training rise or competition, but if possible allocate some additional time upon arrival for decompression and relaxation. Taking a few days to relax, turn out and graze, or hand walk can help your horse adjust to its new surroundings, as well as the Florida heat and humidity, without the added pressure of being ridden and competing.
Preparation is important when planning for a winter season in Florida. Providing a little extra support for your horse will ensure the trip down south goes smoothly and is free of stress. Good luck this winter!